History of  Brookhaven Village

A paper written by Mr. Osborn Shaw of Bellport for the Fireplace Literary Club, and read by him at the Brookhaven Free Library, October 5th, 1933

Fire Place


When Mrs. Post asked me to address you on the history of Brookhaven Village, I little thought it was so long a subject and as I already knew the outline of events, I thought it would not take long to write it down and present it to you.   However, I find that the subject is such a long one, that to do it justice, one could fill enough pages to make a small book and require weeks -- possibly months -- to collect and assemble the data  from tradition and from the authentic records of the Town and County, therefore in the scope of this article, all I can hope to do, is to present a brief and I trust, concise outline of the history of the village.  There is much material easily available and it should be collected and formulated into readable shape.  I hope to do something of the sort for Bellport in the future and would welcome coöperation from some here regarding the history of Fire Place, but whoever elects to collect tradition relating to this section, should not delay, for with the influx of new comers and the dying off of the former old residents, all tradition is rapidly being lost and what little is left is worth getting, even if only fragmentary.  While from authentic records is the only reliable and the only sure way of compiling a history, yet tradition sometimes is the only basis on which to assemble the data after it is collected.

Brookhaven Hamlet Formerly Known as Fire Place
Brookhaven village as you probably all know, was formerly known by the name of Fire Place and at one time, the term was applied to the whole vicinity including South Haven where the grist, saw and fulling mills are given on the Town map of 1797, as "Fire Place Mills".  The unwise change of name from Fire Place to Brookhaven occurred about the 1871, when a group of modernizers, or would-be improvers, started an agitation to drop the ancient name.  Meetings were held and finally it was decided to appropriate the name of the Town, because as one of the proponents told me some few years ago "there is a brook along the eastern part, one in the middle and another along the western part".  Of course the brook at the west -- Osborn's or Dayton's -- can not be considered as anything but in Bellport as it lies well within the Bellport school and fire districts and the people living there adjoining it consider themselves Bellporters.  However for the sake of argument at the time, Osborn's or Dayton's Brook was said to be along West Fire Place and the change in name was made.  I have seen it stated that the name was changed in 1876, but Bayles' "Sketches of Suffolk Co." published in 1872, states that the change had but recently been made, so I assume it was about the year 1870 or 1871.  If anyone can give me the exact date, I will appreciate it.  Hardly a worse name could have been chosen, as from early colonial days as early as 1666, Brookhaven was the name of the Town and also the name of the mother settlement of Setauket as well.  In the the town records, in Book B alone, there are fourteen references to Setauket as Brookhaven and it was from the fact that Brookhaven was the English name, while Setauket or Setalcot was the Indian name, that Governor Nicolls in 1666 and Governor Dongen in 1686, officially named the Town from its then chief settlement.  When Fire Place usurped their old name, indignation was high in Setauket.  The Presbyterian parish there, the oldest of any denomination in the Town, still bears the official name of "the First Presbyterian Church of Brookhaven".  Before, during, and for a number of years after the Revolutionary War, the many mentions of the place are frequently as Brookhaven, sometimes Setauket -- both terms being synonymous -- and both terms continued to be used according to whether a person chose to use the Indian or the English name.  In like manner, Setauket was often used as a name of the Town, but in latter years to avoid the confusion which sometimes arose, Setauket was confined as the name of the village and Brookhaven used only for the Town.
Name Change a Mistake
It was a sad mistake that the historic and quaint name of Fire Place was dropped and the alternative name of Setauket and of the Town substituted in it's place.  But the error was made and it is to be hoped that the people of this place will see fit in the near future to restore its original name and thereby save the confusion and misunderstanding that constantly arise by the village and the Town both bearing the same name.  To save such misunderstanding, I shall refer to the village only as Fire Place in the remainder of this article and I shall also refer to the river on the east only as Connecticut River, its correct name, and not by its more modern nick name, "Carman's River".